How Much Feedback Can You Take

So you’ve written your novel, you’ve done some revising and you’ve shown it to a few people. But you find the more people you show it to, the more feedback you receive. This should be a good thing. After all beta readers are there to tell you where your story needs work. But how many beta readers can you manage at one time?

Recently, I got feedback from two amazing published authors (as part of The Do The Right Thing for Nashville auctions). I poured over all their comments and implemented 98% of them. I felt really good but then I came back from the conference where I was told to change the setting from college to boarding school. This of course necessitated a lot of rewrites. And now, I’m struggling to implement the suggestions from the conference and my newest beta readers.

I think the problem is I’m losing my confidence. Every beta reader has something else that bothers them, something else that isn’t working for them, something I need to fix. But  all these fixes are moving me away from my polished version. I’ve added a new scene in the first 10 pages, it feels rough. The other scenes have been revised hundreds of times and  I don’t know how to bring this one up to par.

I know feedback is a great thing, and I’m really grateful to have it. But suddenly I can’t differentiate what works and what doesn’t. Generally, if 2 to 3 people point out the same thing, I know I have to look at it and work on. But sometimes one person is pointing out certain things and the other people aren’t. Who do I go with there?  Maybe I’m just putting too much pressure on myself. LOL. I have been known to do that.

Rachelle Gardner had a great post on how to deal with contradictory feedback. I enjoyed reading it and it helped give me some perspective.

How much feedback you feel you need? Can you ever have too much feedback? How do you deal with the times when you don’t know what to add, what to delete, and what to revise?

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8 Responses to How Much Feedback Can You Take

  1. Karen Ranney says:

    Kourtney, I just wanted to stop by and tell you how much I like your blog. I’m sorry about the layoff, too. Sometimes, the most awful things happen and they lead to great opportunities.

    One of the things about beta readers, critique groups, and peers is that they’ll all give you a vision of what they like. In the end, it’s your vision that must triumph. Sometimes, that will mean that you’ll go against the grain, or ignore the suggestions of others (even published authors). That’s one of the scary parts of writing, taking that trembling feeling of certainty and running with it, all the while praying you know what you’re doing.


    • Thanks for stopping by! I’m so glad you like the blog. 🙂 I’m hoping that good things are around the corner.

      You’re 100% right. I was so certain what I was giving them was amazing, so when they come back with tons of questions or changes, I just start wondering if I’m wrong. I keep hearing trust the reader, but then people ask for things spelled out. It’s such a fine line to walk. But in the end it is my book and I have to believe in my work (while still being open to tweaking things). Thanks for the great words of wisdom!

  2. Meg Spinella says:

    I’ve been having exactly the same problem between the Conference feedback and my Haywire Writer’s group. What I’ve found useful is the phrase “take what you like and leave the rest”. I have to hold true to my original conception of the story as best I can or I lose focus. But when two cops, independently of each other, told me I didn’t have the police procedure right – I did a painstaking rewrite yesterday of one of my favorite scenes. And, guess what, I can see that it’s much better. But I’m able to ignore some of what others tell me (as their concept, not mine).

    Hang in there Courtney. That “rough” scene will come together – probably when you least expect it. Thanks for the link to the article!

    • Glad to hear I’m not the only one struggling. 🙂 I guess in the beginning, I was quick to dismiss others opinions and now the pendulum is swinging the other way. Now I’m too open. Eventually I’ll get it right. 🙂 I think I have to let it breathe. I keep trying to get everything ready for querying and with the rewrites the first five pages aren’t ready yet. So I’ll just read a few books, and then get back to it. July will be query time. I love Rachelle’s blog–always has useful tidbits on it.

  3. berry says:

    Too much of anything is not good. Moderation and make sure the changes you make don’t change your novel. You gotta be true to yourself.

  4. Emma says:

    Well, it seems like I’m almost a little late to comment on this because everyone else did such a great job sharing what they thought. 🙂
    Anyways, I think you are right when you say that when different people come up with the same things you should go back and change it. Of course everyone has their own taste and can only tell you what they think works or doesn’t work. If they mention something independently from each other, they’re usually right and you should reconsider. Rachelle Gardner’s post has some really great suggestions on how to deal with criticism and feedback. She gave a great example of how people can have completely different tastes. BUT: At the end of the day, it’s you who should decide whether you need to change a scene or not.

    • Never too late to comment. 🙂 It’s great to hear what people think. Feedback is definitely a challenge. With my newest story, 4 people gave me feedback on the first 50 pages. Sometimes what one person loved, the other hated. It came down to my artistic vision and my characters. Then again, one person brought up the lack of setting and when I bounced it off the other people (after all feedback had been given), they all agreed that was missing. It really is a very interactive process. Some times one person catches something the rest missed. I love Rachelle’s blog. It’s a great resource. 🙂 Her post was nice to read when I was struggling with that very issue.

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